Gulf Coast residents were rushing preparations to completion on Monday as the region braced for another hit from a hurricane — a little over two weeks after Laura’s devastating blow to areas farther west. Sally strengthened over the north-central Gulf of Mexico, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 90 mph Monday midday, as outer rain bands began soaking parts of the Florida Panhandle and western Florida.
The hurricane is expected to strengthen further before it makes its first landfall Tuesday night to early Wednesday along the central Gulf coast. AccuWeather meteorologists are expecting the storm to reach Category 2 strength with winds of 96-110 mph. There is a chance the hurricane could reach major hurricane strength with winds of at least 111 mph, prior to weakening before making landfall.
“While some additional strengthening of Sally is likely into early Tuesday, it is believed that the hurricane will weaken a bit prior to making landfall due to slow movement of the storm causing Gulf waters to cool and increased friction from the land,” according to AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski.
“We also expect wind shear to increase over the storm prior to making landfall, which would imply weakening of the intensity as well, but regardless this will still be a significant hurricane strike in the region.” Kottlowski said.
Sally was churning 160 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, during Monday afternoon. The hurricane was crawling slowly west-northwestward at 7 mph.
Because of the wind, coastal flooding and inland flooding impacts combined, however, AccuWeather meteorologists have rated Sally a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes.
The AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes is a 6-point scale with ratings of less than one and 1 to 5 that was introduced by AccuWeather in 2019 to rate tropical systems based on multiple impacts, rather than just wind, like the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale does.
State of emergency declarations have been issued by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves prior to Sally closing in on the region. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in low-lying areas of both states, including for areas outside of New Orleans levee system.
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